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Article

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. His father was Agonglo, king of Dahomey from 1789 to 1797. Adandozan was the eldest son of Agonglo. Oral narratives collected later in the nineteenth century presented him as incompetent and mentally deranged, but it should be kept in mind that rival royal family members eventually ousted Adandozan from power and would have had a vested interest in deriding his achievements. Adandozan ascended to the throne of Dahomey in 1797, in a time marked by difficulties for the kingdom. The royal slave-trading monopoly ran aground on international difficulties, particularly the decision of the French government to abandon the slave trade from 1794 to 1802 and the British and US governments’ decision to abandon the slave trade in 1807 and 1808 respectively The British government began to send warships to stop other countries from purchasing ...

Article

George Michael La Rue

preeminent trans-Saharan merchant and caravan leader (khabir) from the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur, was born in Kubayh, the son of Ibrahim ibn ʿAli, a Tirayfi merchant from Kordofan who immigrated to Darfur, and an unknown mother. He was commonly known as khabir ʿAli. In the nineteenth century Darfur was Egypt’s leading supplier of trans-Saharan goods including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves. In 1838, when Darfur’s sultan Muhammad Fadl died, young ʿAli ibn Ibrahim had already crossed the Sahara along the route from Kubayh (Darfur’s commercial capital) to Asyut in Upper Egypt, perhaps as part of a caravan led by his mentor, paternal uncle, and future father-in-law, Muhammad Kannun, or one of the lesser Tirayfi caravan leaders. ʿAli ibn Ibrahim allegedly heard the news of the sultan’s death from Muhammad ʿAli, the viceroy of Egypt.

ʿAli married six times and had numerous children His first marriage was probably ...

Article

Awutiek  

Stephanie Beswick

chief of the Palyoupiny Malwal, created an early aristocratic Dinka state in the southern Sudan during the 1880s. Awutiek’s uncle and predecessor Duang Marial had gained power by collaborating with slave traders such as Zubayr and with officials of the Egyptian colonial government. These lessons were not lost on the young chief Awutiek, who quickly realized the importance of firearms and purchased large quantities from Fertit middlemen, northern Sudanese traders, and Azande. He also acquired arms from Mahdists fallen in battle. Awutiek built a standing army. He set his warriors to regular military drills and maintained a strong, well-trained force. By 1892 having annihilating the last Mahdist force to venture into his territory Awutiek extended his influence down the Chell and Loll Rivers as far as the Rek country in the eastern Bahr el Ghazal By the height of his power Awutiek controlled most of the diverse peoples living ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

a Bandia paramount chief (or “sultan”) of the Nzakara kingdom, a precolonial polity spanning the Mbali River in the southeastern region of what is now the Central African Republic. Named Kpangba at birth, he adopted the name Bangassou (“blazing sun”). According to Nzakara oral history, his father was Mbali/Bali (Mbari/Bari) “the gazelle,” son of Gwendi (or Boendi) “the taciturn,” son of Beringa “the drunkard,” son of Dunga “the quarrelsome,” son of Gobenge, son of Pobdi, son of Bwanda “the healer,” son of Agungu, son of Pongiet, son of Bongumu. These ancestors of Bangassou were members of the Bandia clan who left their Ngbandi homeland on the Ubangi River and conquered the Nzakara people.

The Bandia rulers participated in the growing slave trade of the nineteenth century and incorporated women and children into their polity thus prospering while nearby peoples in stateless societies were raided by slave traders The Nzakara often ...

Article

Robert Fay

Although Sengbe—pronounced Sin’gway, and later Anglicized as Joseph Cinque—lived for approximately sixty-six years, he is best known for his role in a drama that lasted a little more than three years. Scholars believe that Cinque, who belonged to the Mende ethnic group, was a married man and father before his abduction. Cinque was born in Sierra Leone and at about the age of twenty-six, he was kidnapped by slave raiders and sold to Portuguese slave traders who took him to Havana, Cuba. There, he and other Africans were resold and put on the Amistad Shortly after leaving Havana harbor Cinque led a group of slaves who freed themselves and attacked the ship s crew killing all but two crewmembers The rebels kept these two alive and ordered them to sail back to Africa The crewmembers however tricked them and sailed north About two months later the ship landed ...

Article

Glele  

Joseph C. E. Adande

king of Dahomey (r. 1858–1888), was born Badohou, the son of Gezo, the ninth king of Dahomey, and Zognindi, a free-born woman from Adakplamè. Some sources give the date of his death as 1888. Among the thirteen kings who ruled the kingdom of Danxome (Dahomey; present-day Benin) from 1625 to 1899, those of the nineteenth century, and Glele in particular, were the most famous.

The history of the kingdom of Dahomey is recorded in and by the Kpanlingan, which is both the official recorded poetic text and the person reciting it. Each king has his own kpanlingan Glele s is the longest In this text written down by Claude Savary for the first time only in the twentieth century we find numerous images emphasizing how powerful Glele was He is said to be Axosu kololo We dede kololo ma no mia the great king you cannot ...

Article

Kapuufi  

Kathleen Smythe

was king of Nkansi (mwene in Kifipa) in the late nineteenth century (c. 1860 to c.1890), one of two Fipa kingdoms between Lakes Rukwa and Tanganyika ruled by the Twa dynasty. There are conflicting accounts of the Twa genealogy, but Kapuufi was probably the son of a previous Nkansi king. He had two children, Ndalu, a daughter, and Kilatu, a son, who eventually became mwene himself. Very little is known about Kapuufi’s personal life. Much of what we know is about his kingdom and comes from travelers like Edward Hore, Paul Reichard, and Joseph Thomson, all of whom noted that Nkansi was well governed, peaceful, and prosperous and that the people respected Kapuufi.

Nkansi was a centralized kingdom that was connected to villages under its jurisdiction by politico-religious ceremonies and exchanges of labor and goods. Below the king and queen mother were the leaders of districts or provinces, mwenekandawa ...

Article

James Giblin

also known as Muhina Kisabengo Kingo was prominent in the political and commercial life of eastern Tanzania during the middle decades of the nineteenth century The settlement that he established became an important market center of political power and home to several thousand residents In the twentieth century it grew into the major city of Morogoro Situated on the primary trade route between the Indian Ocean and eastern Africa s Great Lakes it was visited by numerous European travelers who wrote admiringly about its stone fortifications finely wrought wooden gates spaciousness and good order In this way Kisabengo came to the attention of a worldwide reading audience Kisabengo s successor was Kingo a son by his wife Kitukira Because Kingo was very young when his father died Morogoro was ruled in the 1870s by Simbamwene a formidable leader and daughter by another wife Makombera Kingo died shortly after assuming office ...

Article

Nana Yaw B. Sapong

domestic slave, slave trader, and merchant prince, was born Adzoviehlo Atiogbe in Agoue in Dahomey (Benin) in 1804 He is also known as Adzoviehlo Atiogbe or Geraldo de Vasconcellos A man of several names he is one of the least understood and most complex characters in modern West African history Geraldo de Vasconcellos probably a Brazilian name given to him by his master in servitude entered into a period of apprenticeship under Brazilian slave trader Cesar Cerquira Lima who had a slave factory warehouse at Vodza in present day Ghana Slaves were kept in the Vodza factory before shipment to various destinations Cesar Cerquira Lima was one of a succession of Brazilian traders who had been establishing factories along the eastern coastline of the Gold Coast in the nineteenth century Geraldo de Vasconcellos became one of Cesar s trusted agents in Anlo who kept the supply of slaves steady ...

Article

Isabelle de Rezende

prominent trader and warlord in present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa, former Zaire), was born between 1855 and 1860 in what today is Congo’s Maniema Province, between the rivers Lomami to the west and Lualaba to the east. Ngongo’s origins are unclear. Most commentators situate him as a Tetela-Kusu, Songye, or Hina (Lomami River people, connected linguistically and culturally to their various neighbors); the preferred spelling of his name by these communities is Ngongo Leteta.

What we know of Ngongo’s life was lived in the context of eastern and central Congo in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. Swahili traders, the most famous of whom was Tippu Tip, culturally mixed Muslims from the East African island of Zanzibar, began incursions into the Congo west of the Lualaba. They established the slave and ivory market towns of Kasongo and Nyangwe.

There are different stories about how Ngongo came to Tippu Tip ...

Article

Rosemary Elizabeth Galli

warlord, trader, and founder of perhaps the greatest Yao dynasty in Niassa in northern Mozambique, was the grandson of Syungule, head of the Chisyungule lineage. Mataka Nyambi, along with his biggest rival Makanjila, was instrumental in transforming the Niassa Yao from a society of matriclans to one governed by territorial chiefs. In the process, he brought a large population under his control and gained many wives; he is said to have had six hundred wives and numerous children. In about 1875 Mataka (now Mataka I) beheaded his adversary Makanjila.

A fierce drought drove the Niassa Yao to invade and ransack their neighbors for food and, subsequently, slaves in the 1830s Attacks by Nguni raiders have been responsible for their militarization Small and weak matriclans submitted to the stronger territorial chiefs and even sought their protection Mataka Nyambi was both feared and admired for his military prowess In addition trade ...

Article

Jonathon L. Earle

prince of Buganda, and titular head of the Muslim community in Uganda, was born around 1835, a son of Kabaka Ssuuna Kalema Kansinge II (r. c. 1830–1857). Born Omulangira (prince) Ssimbwa Ssempebwa, Mbogo’s mother was Kubina, a member of the Fumbe (Civet Cat) clan. However, at an early age, Mbogo was entrusted to the care of Muganzirwazza, mother of Kabaka Walugembe Mukaabya Muteesa I (1838–1884, invested 1857). Muteesa and Mbogo were raised together under her care. Following Ssuuna’s death, Muganzirwazza had the overwhelming majority of the princes executed, a practice not unheard of by queen mothers in earlier Ganda history. Upon learning of the planned execution of Mbogo, the new king petitioned his mother, resulting in Mbogo’s release.

According to Emin Pasha s diary Islam first reached the courts of Buganda in the person of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ibrahim a Zanzibari trader whose family migrated from Oman during ...

Article

Mirambo  

Stephen J. Rockel

the most famous of the Nyamwezi chiefs (mtemi, Kinyamwezi) in Tanzania, and perhaps the greatest of all nineteenth-century East Africans, was the son of Kasanda Mtula, mtemi of the small state of Uyowa in western Unyamwezi, and of Nyakasi, a daughter of the ruling family of neighboring Bukune. His birth names, from his grandfathers, were “Mtula” and “Mtyela,” but he became known as “Mirambo” (“corpses”) because of his widespread military conquests.

Mirambo grew up during the great expansion of long distance trade in East Africa based on exports of ivory and other African products and imports of manufactured goods especially cloth metal goods and firearms In the middle decades of the century an economic boom reshaped institutions and practices across the region as rising prices for ivory and the shrinking costs of manufactured cloth worked to expand market forces stimulating entrepreneurship accumulation and migrant wage labor Competition for ...

Article

Msiri  

Nathaniel Mathews

political leader in eastern and central Africa, was born Mwenda Msiri Ngelengwa Shitambi in Tabora (in present-day Tanzania) to an ambitious Sumbwa Nyamwezi trader. Msiri rose to become one of the most powerful of a new class of nineteenth-century African rulers who used firearms and long-distance trade to build up spheres of influence independent of clan linkages or hereditary inheritance. Msiri’s father Kalasa held a chieftainship under the great Nyamwezi ruler Mirambo and was also a very successful copper merchant. Known as the Yeke, Msiri and other Nyamwezi brought the peoples of the Katanga plateau coastal trade goods while providing a market for the heavy copper crosses molded in Katanga refineries.

Msiri s first political strategy was to ally himself with the Wasanga in their war against a Lunda regent Msiri was able to defeat the Lunda king earning the gratitude and subordination of the Wasanga He followed this victory ...

Article

Holly Hanson

king of Buganda (r. 1856–1884), was the son of Kabaka (King) Ssuna by his tenth wife Muganzirwazza of the Njovu clan, who as nnamasole (queen mother) exercised formidable political power herself. Muteesa ruled from October 1856 until his death in 1884. In order to solidify his somewhat precarious hold on the kabakaship, Muteesa killed many people in the early years of his rule, receiving the name Mutebya, “bringer of tears.” Over time, however, he became known instead as Muteesa, “the benefactor,” as a result of the intelligence and innovation he used to meet the internal threat of enslavement and the external threat of encroachment from the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and the European scramble for spheres of influence in East Africa.

Ganda the people of Buganda traditions associate Kabaka Muteesa with the arrival of large amounts of foreign cloth and with the decision to sell slaves to obtain it That people ...

Article

Holly Hanson

king of Buganda as Mwanga II, was born to Kabaka Muteesa I and Abisagi Bagalayaze of the Ngonge clan. Mwanga was raised, following Ganda tradition, far from the palace. He had been his father’s choice as successor, and was installed as kabaka (king) on 24 October 1884. Powerful royal women, the traditional king-makers in Uganda, preferred one of his brothers, and only four months after he took office, older chiefs tried to kill him and place a rival on the throne. Mwanga had a reputation for favoritism even as a prince, and he failed to learn the skill of balancing competing interests, which was the heart of a kabaka’s power. Mwanga had his first child when he was 29, but he eventually fathered seven sons and four daughters by sixteen wives. His fourth wife, Evalyn Kulabako, gave birth to his successor, Daudi Chwa, in 1896.

Mwanga came to ...

Article

Aylward Shorter

successful Nyamwezi warlord in nineteenth-century Tanzania, was born into the ruling family of Unyanyembe, the chiefdom that surrounds Tabora township. Although his date of birth is not known, it is clear that by 1861 he was already an active warrior. The name of his father is not known, but his mother, Kupelelwa, was the granddaughter of Chief Mgalula. His name (which means “Pot-of-Stone”) is most frequently coupled with that of his cousin, Mnwa Sele, the chief who rebelled against the Tabora Arabs, and who was driven into exile by his uncle Kiyungi, with Arab support. Nyungu took part in Mnwa Sele’s guerrilla campaigns and aspired to succeed him as rightful chief of Unyanyembe when he was killed in 1865. The explorer John Hanning Speke tried to mediate between Mnwa Sele and the Tabora Arabs in 1861 and recorded that the former s representative was a one eyed warrior ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Gabonese monarch, was the powerful ruler of most Nkomi people living along the Rembo Nkomi River and the Fernan Vaz lagoon in what is present-day Gabon. Much of his early life and reign is largely obscure, save for oral traditions that often contradict one another. It may be that these stories refer to several rengondo (king in the Nkomi dialect of the Omyènè language, widely spoken today in coastal Gabon) rather than Onanga Oyembo. Some oral accounts claim that Onanga Oyembo had slave ancestry. Such a background would not have necessarily prevented his rise to power, as many free Nkomi had slave wives. Others report that he had a miraculous beginning: his mother was said to have suddenly become pregnant and to have given birth in a very short time. His command over supernatural forces, particularly ombwiri water spirits who lived in the lagoon remains legendary among many residents ...

Article

coastal Gabonese leader, was the son of an Asiga clan leader living on the south bank of the Gabon Estuary. He was known to French visitors to the Gabon Estuary as Denis and to English visitors as King William. The Asiga comprised one of the leading Mpongwe Omyènè-speaking clans in the Gabon Estuary in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rapontchombo profited greatly from the rise of slave exports from Gabon to the Portuguese colonies of São Tomé and Principe, Brazil, Cuba, and the United States after the Napoleonic wars. When the British navy began patrolling West African waters to stop the trans-Atlantic slave trade, many slave merchants turned to Gabon. With no formal European presence, it was relatively easy to acquire and smuggle slaves. As oga clan chief Rapontchombo acted as the leader of a council of officials and leading male free notables rather than an autocratic ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

ruler of Dar al-Kuti, a Muslim state in what is now northeastern Central African Republic (CAR), was born in Wadai. Al-Sanusi was the son of Abu Bakr and a descendant of Umar Jugultum, who reputedly founded Dar al-Kuti in c. 1830. Umar, in turn, was the son of Aden Burgomanda, the mbang (ruler) of Baguirmi. Al-Sanussi’s mother was the daughter of Salih, a sultan (c. 1850–c. 1870) of Dar Runga. Al-Sanusi was named in honor of the Islamic Sanusiya brotherhood. While still young, he want sent to Sha, the capital of Dar al-Kuti, to live with his father’s brother Muhammad Kobur, a merchant leader of the Muslim community in the region.

Dar al Kuti was threatened in the 1880s by the slave raider Rabih a lieutenant of Zubayr Pasha who ruled the Bahr el Ghazal in southern Sudan Rabih raided into Dar al Kuti and attempted to draw Kobur ...